Plant The Spear

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2022 Schedule breakdown and win/loss outlook

When I really dig into what the season could look like for FSU, going through each opponent and how FSU matchers up, I get excited about what this team could accomplish. I think Norvell has flipped the culture at FSU, has buy in from the team, and improved the level of talent and depth.

However, the Noles don’t have an easy schedule in front of them and there are still a good number of questions that remain to be answered. There’s a lot of potential on this team but some of the new faces we’re counting on do not having proven production to rely on, or at least at the power 5 level. That doesn’t mean they can get the job done, it just means we have to wait and see how they look in a game situation. But there is finally a handful of players that could make a significant impact for FSU who you’re excited to see don the garnet and gold. We’re going to find out a lot about this team in the first 2 games. 

I’m making these predictions as if Jordan Travis stays healthy and this team plays up to their potential. Of course, there will be off days or something that isn’t as improved as we’d hoped. FSU has better depth in ’22, but if they have to dig too far into the depth chart at a few key positions the season could go sideways. There are so many coin-flip games this season honestly, I could see anywhere from 6-6 to 10-2. That sounds like a lot I know, but when we get into the schedule breakdown, you’ll see why I think it could be a possibility. 

Regardless, I do think FSU turns the corner this year and gets back to a winning season and bowl. I’m probably being overly optimistic here but it’s time for FSU to start showing something in the win column. I can say, I feel that even if the win/loss record is somewhat of a disappointment (depending on your expectations) the brand of football you see will be better. It’s almost impossible to predict scores (although I did nail the Super Bowl score to the point last year) when you haven’t seen any of the teams play, but I’ll tack a score prediction on the end just for the fun of doing it. 

I know this is an extremely long post, however, if I’m going to say the Noles could go 10-2 or even 8-4 I have to provide substance to my claim to back it up. My goal is not to pump sunshine here but instead lay out my case for why I think FSU could have nice season. So, grab a cup of coffee or a cold beverage and let’s get to it! If you are a busy of or not the reading type Episode & of the podcast breaks all this down too so be sure to check it out or listen below. 

Plant The Spear Podcast
Plant The Spear Podcast
Episode 7: 2022 FSU Schedule Breakdown and Win/Loss Projection.
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Win Loss prediction graphic

Duquesne

Duquesne went 7-3 in 2021, playing one game against a power 5 opponent which was a TCU team that finished 5-7. TCU won 45-3 in a game that was shortened to 12-minute quarters in the second half. Duquesne only managed to put up 137 yards of offense while giving up over 400.

They return quarterback Darius Perrantes who threw for a little over 1,600 yards in 9 games and had a completion percentage of 59.1% with 17 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. The Dukes have to replace their leading receiver, Cyrus Holder, who’s 629 yards doubled that of any other receiver on the team. They also must replace their second leading rusher who accounted for almost 40% of their rushing production last season. Between the two they were responsible for 42% of Duquesne’s offensive yards.

On defense, they must fill notable losses at multiple positions including 3 of their top 7 tacklers and leader in defensive stops. The 2021 season saw the Dukes finish 70th in yards per game (346) and 39th in points per game (29.5) on offense in the FCS. Their defense finished top 30 in most categories at the FCS level.

FSU should easily over match the Dukes and result in lopsided game where the starters hit the bench by halftime. I know I know, but for the record Duquesne in no Jacksonville State. FSU should use this game to get in rhythm before LSU and see what some of the backups have. If FSU loses this one the entire staff should be fired before they make it to the locker room. Last year scarred us as a fan base, especially yours truly who sat row 1 behind the JSU bench for that loss… 

Norvell knows he can’t mess around like he did last year and have another embarrassing loss to an FCS team. I think FSU is past that stage now and will look to run it up especially with the Duquesne staff throwing some shade at FSU saying they are ready for the challenge and have an opportunity to shock the world. It’s high time the Noles stop letting FCS teams think they are get-able and Norvell needs hang a half a hundred on them to prove a point. Hopefully, for the first time since 2016 the Noles start the season 1-0 and in a blowout fashion. Give me FSU BIG in this one, FSU 51-6

LSU

The LSU offense was not great in 2021. They finished 80th in Scoring offense, 102nd in efficiency and 96th in explosiveness. The Tigers lost 85% of their rushing production from last year and just received news that senior running back John Emory Jr will miss the first 2 games as well. The offensive line ranked 54th in pressure rate allowed, 111th in sacks and have questions up front about a line that is being rebuilt for the 2022 season. The offensive line is probably their biggest question mark on the team which a matchup I like for FSU. 

Their receiver group will be a handful, but Boutte is coming off injury and I’m not sold on Daniels as a passer either. He only threw for 200+ yards in 5 of 13 games last season and had 10 interceptions last season. He is a capable dual threat who can run the ball though so FSU will have to contain him on the ground. LSU will be in game one of a brand-new offense and many new players learning the new system. The Tigers will also be relying on a true freshman kicker which could be a factor.  

Their numbers weren’t great on defense last year either, the Tigers finished 71st in scoring defense, 65th in total defense, 71st in efficiency, 98th at finishing drives and 46th in havoc rate. They also lost a 100+ tackler at linebacker and their highest graded defensive lineman from last season. However, I will say this year’s unit has the potential to be really good. Their front seven will be a problem for FSU to block and the rebuilt secondary has some nice pieces. But once again, new defense with a lot of new faces in game one. That’s not to say LSU will be sloppy but it takes time to get in rhythm for both players and a new staff when everything is new. For the first time in a while, FSU finally gets the edge in having more continuity and time in the same system.

Brian Kelly has been good in year one in the past adding around 1-2 wins to his previous team’s record. I understand the challenges of being at Notre Dame and his level of talent will be higher at LSU. However, we also have to consider FSU almost upset his top 10 Irish team last year which was a program he had been building for over a decade. If this game were to be played in November, I might would even pick LSU to win. 

Both teams have their fair share of playmakers as well as question marks that need to be answered in a game time situation. I just feel like it’s a huge boost for FSU to get them in game one especially after getting a tune up game even if it is against Duquesne. I’m really on the fence for this one and it’s one of my least confident picks. I think both offenses will likely struggle in a game where the defense is the better unit on both sides. I’m sure we’ll see a few fireworks before it’s over with Boutte at receiver and Jordan’s dynamic running ability.

I’m giving FSU the edge because: 1) I think LSU will struggle to run the ball, they have an unproven offensive line, a back that may turn out to be good but currently averages only 3.3 ypa in his career, almost no depth behind him and FSU’s strength in their defensive line. I’m also not sure Daniels can light it up through the air against what should be a pretty good secondary. FSU will have to contain his rushing ability but should benefit from much improved linebacker play this season. 2) FSU has more continuity, time in the system and should be the more polished team. They should be able to take advantage of any miscues that present themselves.

My biggest concerns are whether FSU can block their front and if these receivers are as improved as we hope and able to make plays against a solid secondary themselves. I also want to see if FSU is finally ready to win on the big stage. When it all boils down my gut says FSU in a close one. This is one of many coin flip games I feel are in store for the Seminoles this season. Give me something like FSU 27-24

Louisville

Malik Cunningham, in my opinion, is one of the most underrated players in college football. He accounted for over 4,000 yards and almost 40 touchdowns last season. The cards have a solid offensive line in front of Cunningham, but they weren’t impenetrable finishing 53rd in pressure allowed rate but only 25th in sacks allowed showing that Cunningham’s ability to escape the pocket helps their cause. 

Louisville’s wide receiver room got raided by the portal this off-season losing 3 of their top 5 targets who accounted for 45% of their receiving yards and over half of their touchdowns last season. They added a 1,200-yard receiver from Central Arkansas, but will he be able to duplicate that production at the power 5 level? They also return a talented tight end, Marshon Ford, who led the team in receiving, had 0 drops and was tied for third highest in contested catch rate last season according to PFF.

Despite being littered with veteran players last season, the UL Defense was statistically well below average finishing 77th in scoring defense, 84th in total defense, pressure rate, havoc rate and 112th in finishing drives. They did add 6 players through the portal to help solidify the struggling unit including former Nole Jarvis Brownlee Jr. The last meeting started rough for the FSU defense before they got it together and ended up shutting UL out in the second half. Despite losing the game, FSU actually outgained the Cardinals on offense. 

I don’t like it being on the road for a Friday night prime time game. However, FSU does get an extra week to prepare whereas UL will be coming off a game vs UCF which was a hard-fought battle last year. Everyone seems to think we lose this game, but I’m not convinced that’s the case. FSU should be improved on both sides of the ball and Louisville lost most of Cunningham’s top targets. Don’t get me wrong it won’t come easy, but if FSU can somewhat contain Cunningham, I like their chances. However, this game is certainly one the Noles can lose if they don’t bring their A-Game. Still, give me the Noles in a shootout 34-30

Boston College

FSU beat BC on the road last season despite A LOT of bad calls going in favor of the Eagles. Statistically, their offense was abysmal last year against a relatively easy schedule. The Eagles finished 112th in passing success rate, 98th in passing efficiency, 93rd in scoring offense and 103rd in total offense. Jurkovec, who was inconsistent at best last season, could have a bounce-back season and they still have Zay Flowers who’s a nice piece out wide. 

They also return a 1,000-yard rusher; however, they must replace their ENTIRE offensive line from last season which is not great considering they were already 113th in pressure rate allowed. Jurkovec had one of his worst games against FSU throwing for 148 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception with a completion rate of just 41.7%. If the FSU defense turns out to be the unit we think they can, I have a hard time seeing BC moving the ball with much success.

BC’s pass defense was legit last season finishing 3rd overall and returns most of the pieces. However, they will need to replace a four-year starter at corner who led the team in interceptions last season. Despite their good passing defense, they struggled to create pressure, negative plays, and were awful against the run. BC finished the season ranked 92nd in rushing defense, 101st in havoc rate, 96th in pressure rate, 96th in sacks and 107th in tackles for loss. 

Even with a stout pass defense this was one of Jordan’s best games through the air throwing for 251 yards, 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. FSU is also a run heavy team and could feast on that run defense if it’s not significantly improved. While ACC refs will still be officiating the game this time around, it’s in Tallahassee this year and I like the Noles with some breathing room. 31-17

Wake Forest

This game requires 2 predictions, one with Sam Hartman and one without. Wake had an incredible passing offense with Hartman at the helm which led then to a school record tying 11-win season. However, with the news of Hartman being out indefinitely you would think that would cause a significant drop off in production. Their new starter is a sophomore who only has 2 passing attempts in his career and they lost a 1k yard receiver. Hartman was also a big part of their run game finishing tied for the lead in rushing yards and had the most rushing touchdown. 

Their defense was now where as good as that offense. The Deacon defense gave up over 42 points 5 times last year and finished 91st in efficiency and 107th in total defense. They do return 6 starters but have multiple question marks across the board. Unfortunately for Wake they just don’t have that much talent or depth on that side of the ball. However, they did bring in a new defensive coordinator, but I doubt it makes a sizeable difference with their personnel. 

They also lost a really good veteran kicker in Nick Sciba who will be replaced with a rs-FR which could be a factor in a close game which they had plenty of last year even with Hartman. Head coach Dave Clawson said that Sam Hartman will return this season but did not provide any timetable of when. If he is back and has a game or two to get in rhythm, I think Wake edges out FSU in a close one. I’m not sure if the FSU offense is quite ready to go toe-to-toe up with that caliber of offense if the game were to turn in to a shootout. If Hartman is out, or this is his first game back, I’ll take FSU to get the win at home. Scenario 1: WF 34-27. Scenario 2: FSU 34-17.

FSU potentially starting 4-1/5-0? This is getting scary! I promise I’m sober while writing this.😅 Unfortunately, the fun stops here though as I think FSU drops their next 2 games.

NC State

I hate playing in Raleigh, it’s a snake pit for FSU and this is a good Wolfpack team that returns 17 starters and 82% of their production. I do question how they will perform with the high expectations they have coming into this season. Many have them winning the ACC Atlantic, however, their last conference title came way back in 1979 and they only have one 10-win season in program history.

NC State had a good offense behind the arm of Devin Leary last season. Leary had an incredible 35/5 touchdown to interception ratio and had 6 games without with over 300 yards passing and 6 with no interceptions. They did lose a star left tackle, leading veteran wide receiver and two leading rushers but return just about everyone else. The run game should be their biggest question mark this season only returning 178 of 1,567 yards. As good as Leary was their number don’t exactly blow you away. The Pack finished 59th in total offense, 83rd in efficiency and 72nd in third down conversion rate.

The NC State defense is both experienced, good. NC State was Top 25 in almost every category last year and returns 10/11 starters. That’s not to say they didn’t have flaws of their own as they gave up over 400 yards in five games and 30+ points in three. They are definitely one of the better units FSU will face this season. NC State isn’t unbeatable, I just don’t see FSU pulling off the upset here especially on the road. The played NC State close last season and I think the Noles hold their own again this meeting but fall 28-17.

Clemson

The Tigers had a “bad year” and still won 10 games last season. Their three losses were against the eventual national champion, a good NC State in double overtime and the reigning ACC champion Pitt. However, that is still the most losses they have had since 2014 and could be signs of cracks in the foundation especially knowing they have now lost every coordinator who was present during their recent run of success.

Their offense was statistically pretty bad, the Tigers finished 82nd in scoring offense, 100th in total offense, 84th in efficiency, 102nd in explosiveness, and 83rd at finishing drives. They were able to run the ball well and return 3 solid backs from last season but do lose leading receiver Justyn Ross. If DJ struggles again, we could certainly see Cade Klubnik take over but Dabo has stated it’s DJ’s job to lose at the moment.

Their defense is what I’m worried about in the match up this season. Last year Clemson finished top 10 in scoring and total defense, efficiency, explosiveness, finishing drives, pressure rate and EPA per run. They also finished top 25 in havoc rate, 3rd down defense and EPA per pass. As if that wasn’t bad enough to think about, many believe this could be the best front they’ve ever had at Clemson. 

That dominant defense did, however, lose both starting linebackers and three starters from their secondary two of which were first team All-ACC corners. The secondary is probably their biggest question this season position wise. In my opinion, Dabo losing all of his coordinators will eventually level the playing field especially Venables. Dabo chose to promote from within so the game plan will likely remain the same, but not having one of the best defensive coordinators on the sideline has to factor in some. 

Unfortunately, right now I feel the talent gap is just too much to overcome for FSU and I just don’t think FSU can block them. A lot depends on whether the offense gets turned around or not too. The Noles finally ended the streak of blowouts at the hands of Clemson with Jermaine Johnson having a big part in that. Despite a close game last year that almost saw FSU knock the Tiger off at home, they still help FSU to under 250 yards while putting up over 400. They also return a veteran kick which could help a struggling offense. The Noles can certainly hold their own at home vs the Tigers, but I still think they lose this one something like 24-17

Georgia Tech

Geoff Collins took on the difficult task of transitioning Georgia Tech away from the triple option and changing the image of a program. So far, it has not gone well for the rambling wreck. Georgia Tech made wholesale changes to its staff this off-season with the seat appearing to get hot under Collins after three straight sub .500 seasons.

Just when it seemed like Tech might have something to build from with talented running back Jahmyr Gibbs, he hit the portal and is now at Alabama. That was a monumental loss as Gibbs was their leading rusher, second leading receiver and leading kick returner. To make matters worse, they also lost their second leading rusher and third leading receiver this off-season. In fact, they only return 2 starters from last season on offense and 49% of their production as a team. They were able add a few pieces through the portal which may help their new offensive coordinator get things turned around.

However, they have issues up front, no real proven threats anywhere, and the quarterback position has been inconsistent at best. Jeff Simms will have some competition this season with them adding Akron transfer Zach Gibson and Taisun Phommachanh from Clemson. The Tech offense still has a long way to go after finishing 95th in scoring offense, 93rd in total offense, 81st in efficiency, 106th in finishing drives and 110th in pressure rate allowed.

As bad as the Yellow Jacket offense was, the defense was even worse. They finished 110th in scoring defense, 117th in total defense, 121st in efficiency, 116th in explosiveness, 110th in Havoc rate, 129th in EPA Per Pass play and 120th in 3rd down defense. All that sounds pretty painful, but to further add insult to injury Tech also lost 8 of its top 11 tacklers from last season. It’s not ALL bad though, they do return 2 experienced linebackers, added a couple of transfers and on offense. They can still run the ball pretty well with Simms at quarterback but will be searching for a lot of answers this year.

Georgia Tech has a tough schedule this season which starts with Clemson and the pain may be early and often unless they make a miracle turnaround. They are likely going to start 1-4 with the lone win being against Western Carolina. However, let’s not forget it was Geoff Collins and the Jackets that spoiled Mike Norvell’s debut at FSU. I believe it’s a tale of two different programs this time around though. That was Norvell’s first game after trying to do install over Zoom meeting in the covid season which severely stunted this teams growth in year one. FSU is a much better team than it was in that game and gets them at home again. If FSU wants to turn the corner, they must win the type of games “they should win” and this is one of them. I’ll take the Noles in this one 38-13

Miami

The off-season hype train is back in full swing once again in Coral Gables. Many have high expectations for the Hurricanes in 2022 including winning the Coastal division and playing for an ACC championship. The excitement starts with quarterback Tyler Van Dyke who took over last year when D’Eriq King suffered a season ending injury. As much as I love to take shots at Miami, I have to admit they have a good one in Van Spike ; ) and he’s only going to get better with experience. But can he repeat the same level of success he had last year? Miami has a new OC, which will present a learning curve. They also must replace their two leading receivers, Charleston Rambo and Mike Harley, who were both statistically all-timers for Miami and won’t be easy to replace. 

Up front on offense, both tackles are solid but there is some concern on the interior. Running backs Jaylan Knighton and Cam’ron Harris both return this year, but the running game certainly wasn’t their strength last season. Miami finished 97th in rushing offense, which isn’t that big of a deal when you have a top 10 passing offense, but that might not play well into the scheme of their new head coach and offensive coordinator who like the run the ball. Even with Justin Herbert at QB, Cristobal only threw it on average 46% of the time at Oregon. Only one season at Michigan did new OC Josh Gattis throw it over 50% of the time. 

The Hurricanes were middle of the road in some categories finishing 61st in efficiency, 42nd in explosiveness and 50th in 3rd down offense. However, they did end up with a top 25 offense that put up over 400 yards in 8 games last season. If they can repeat or improve on what they accomplished in 2021, Miami should have a legit offense. That’s not to say there aren’t several unknowns at multiple positions coming into the 2022 season.

As for the defense, they were ok but far from great last season finishing 82nd in scoring defense, 75th in total defense, 102nd in passing defense, 42nd in efficiency and 97th in finishing drives. You probably also remember the issues they had with very poor tackling last year. Kevin Steele takes over as DC this season and has a pretty good track record. The secondary was suspect at times last season, but they used a lot of inexperienced guys who all return this year. Linebackers have been a somewhat underwhelming group and they must replace both starting defensive ends from a season ago as well as an 8-game starter in the middle. The Hurricane defense gave up over 400 yards 6 times last season and over 500 twice. They could certainly improve this year, but how much remains to be seen.

Miami is once again hyped up in pre-season talks, but until they actually go out and prove they can be successful over the course of an entire season I have a hard time buying it. The Hurricanes have had one 10-win season in almost 2 decades and lost to 3 teams with a record of .500 or below last year. The hype is built around TVD and a staff that hasn’t coached a single game at Miami yet. Mario Cristobal had some success during his time at Oregon, but he also inherited a first-round draft pick at QB in a weak Pac-12 conference. He was 6-7 vs ranked teams and 1-4 vs them without Justin Herbert behind center. 

His 35-13 record at a power 5 level is respectable, but good staffs don’t always reproduce good results at a new destination. What if TVD were to get hurt or have to miss time? I certainly don’t wish that on anyone, but it would likely derail the hype train rather quickly. FSU won a close thriller last year at home and must travel to Miami this year. I think this one is a toss-up. FSU could certainly knock the Hurricanes off again, but they will have to bring their A game to do it. Something tells me Miami might just win this at home but it’s certainly no guarantee. ESPN match up predictor gives Miami a 74.5% chance to win which I feel is far too generous. I almost don’t want to pick a score for this because I’m so torn. However, if I absolutely had to I still think FSU takes this one 21-20 because I can’t pick Miami to win anything…lol

Syracuse

Dino Babers needs a good season at Syracuse, he’s 29-43 in 6 seasons and hasn’t made a bowl since 2018. His Syracuse squad was oddly inconsistent at times last year. They lost to FSU, Wake and Clemson by a combined 9 points. Despite losing, that’s not a bad showing for Syracuse. Then they ended the season with 3 straight blowout losses to Louisville, NC State and Pitt by a combined 79 points.

On offense, Syracuse had one of the better running games in college football led by stud running back Sean Tucker. Tucker was 12th in explosive run rate and leads all returning running backs in yards after contact from last season. He’s a game changer for Syracuse and the heart of their offensive. Quarterback Garrett Shrader is a big bruising runner standing 6-foot-4 228-pounds and the other half of a legit rushing attack. Shrader ran for 781 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. The Orange actually had the best rushing offense in the ACC and 16th best in the country. With both players returning for 2022, Syracuse should have another good season as far as rushing is concerned. 

However, that powerful run game came at the expense of an abysmal passing offense. To be fair, Shrader doesn’t have a lot of experience at the position and should get better with more reps, but he has a long way to go. As a starter, Shrader had 4 games with under 100 yards passing, 4 with zero passing touchdowns and 5 games with an under 50% completion rate. Syracuse ranked 121st in passing offense and 106th in EPA Per pass. Shrader doesn’t exactly get a lot of help either. Only one receiver broke 300 yards last season and the Orange lack a clear threat anywhere in the receiver room. 

Up front it doesn’t get much better, Syracuse was 113th in pressure rate allowed and 107th in sacks. They also must replace a veteran center who started 60 consecutive games for the Orange. Syracuse brought in a new offensive coordinator, but it’s unlikely they will get much better on offense due to a talent deficiency everywhere but the running back position. They need Tucker to stay healthy and Shrader to find anything as a passer if they want to have any success on offense.

The Syracuse defense actually wasn’t that bad ranking 19th in total defense and 32nd in havoc rate. Syracuse has one of the better linebacker groups in the conference and a veteran secondary behind them. However, they lost five defensive players up front leaving them with only 3 scholarship players that have any sort of playing time. Creating pressure could be a big problem for the Orange in 2022. Syracuse was also 108th in turnover margin, 121st in starting field position on offense and 119th in average starting filed position on defense. 

They have some pieces to work with on defense and Sean Tucker is a force on offense, but between gaping deficiencies in passing, blocking, receiving and the defensive line needing to be rebuilt from scratch; Syracuse will have a tough time overcoming a difficult schedule. As for the match-up with FSU, the Cuse game was where FSU ended its win-less streak last season in a 33-30 battle in Tallahassee. I’ll be honest, I hate playing Syracuse on the road and this one has trap game written all over coming after the Miami game. It’s a long trip for a game in a boring atmosphere where an opposing team could come out flat and get caught off guard. At least they added air conditioning to the dome now. FSU needs to win this game and frankly they should based on talent level alone. They need to get back to beating the lower tier teams in the conference, but they can’t afford to overlook anyone, especially a scrappy team like Syracuse. Just ask Clemson how that worked out. If the season goes south for the Orange, we could see an interim staff by this point and possibly a disinterested team. FSU has to avoid the trap here, but I think they do. Give me FSU in a close one 31-27

Louisiana

Louisiana had a stellar 13-1 season last year under now Florida head coach Billy Napier. While impressive, their lone loss was to the only power 5 opponent they played which was a 5-7 Texas team. According to PFF metrics they graded out much lower in that game than all the others that season. Not that that is shocking, but this is another good example of the gap between group of 5 and power 5. Last season, this game would have made me pretty nervous. Don’t get me wrong, FSU hasn’t earned the right to overlook anyone, especially after losing to an FCS team last season. However, Louisiana is half the team they were last year, literally.

Not only did they lose their head coach who also called plays, they lost their defensive coordinator and A LOT of impact players from last season. On offense, the Ragin Cajuns averaged 31.1 points per game which was 45th in the country and put up right at 400 yards or more in 8 games. These numbers sound promising until you see the massive hits they took on the depth chart. 

To start, ULL lost their starting veteran quarterback who accounted for all but 143 of their passing yards and was a talented runner as well. Two-thirds of their rushing production have departed between the backs and quarterback. They return 900 of a 2,900 rushing yard offense last season. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they also lost 4 starting offensive linemen. However, it’s not a completely clean slate for ULL, they return all but one receiver who departed for LSU. They also bring back a quality senior running back, Chris Smith, who accounted for 851 yards rushing last year. The big question is whether they can overcome all the losses and unfortunately for Louisiana the losses didn’t stop there.

On defense, they return just 5 starters and must replace 2 of their top 3 tacklers and leader in sacks. However, the players they do return have experience in what was a good defense last season. ULL finished the season ranked 11th in scoring defense, 22nd in total defense and 2nd in turnover margin. The Cajuns had a solid passing defense that held opponents to a 33.5% passing success rate which ranked eighth in the country. Another aspect to their success was good special teams play. Their punter was all conference last season, and they return a senior kicker from injury who’s hit 90% on field goal attempt over his career. FSU does get them very late in the season giving them time to figure everything out roster wise. However, if FSU takes the step forward we expect them to in 2022, this is a very winnable game at home. Just don’t get caught looking ahead to the Friday night match up with rival Florida the following week.

Florida

Like Miami, the Gators will be a new look squad this year after parting ways with former coach Dan Mullen. It would seem like they made a good hire after just looking at Billy Napier’s former team that finished 13-1 last year. However, there is never any guarantee success from the group of 5 level will translate to success at the power 5 level…something we ourselves are all too familiar with. Napier, who’s coached at both Clemson and Alabama, went 7-7 his first season at ULL, but then ran off 3 straight 10-win seasons. The point is, he has a good coaching record, but it may take a year or 2 to get Florida back to the level they want to be at. After all, Napier himself said they needed an infusion of talent, and most sources believe the Gators are in for a year around the .500 range.

On offense, the Gators will probably look to Anthony Richardson at quarterback, but also have Ohio State transfer Jack Miller lll in the race. Either way, it’s probably an upgrade from former starter Emory Jones who threw 13 interceptions last season. Richardson flashed in limited action but is still far from a polished passer. In 2021, he had 63 passing attempts with a completion percentage at just 58.7% with 5 interceptions to 6 touchdowns. Richardson also had a turnover worthy play rate of 6.5% which is high when compared to most other starting quarterbacks.

As a runner, his 8.3 yards per carry were 2nd in FBS last season. It’s unclear how he will perform as QB1 over the course of an entire season after only ever seeing limited action. Although Emory Jones may have thrown it to the opposing team quite often, he could run the ball and accounted for 817 rushing yards last year. Without Jones and their other 2 leading rushers, who are also gone, the Gators only return around 30% of their rushing production. Napier did bring a few players with him from Louisiana, one of which was running back Montrell Johnson who accounted for 841 yards and 12 touchdowns last year with the Cajuns. 

The Florida receiver room is a pretty pedestrian group that also lost 2 of their 3 leading receivers to the portal. Combine that with a raw quarterback and the Gators may need to lean heavily on their run game this season. Up front, they return 3 starters and add a guard that followed Napier from Louisiana as well. The unit is experienced and not bad, but also has not been the most impressive in recent years either.

On defense, the Gators were middle of the road in most categories finishing in the 50’s in efficiency, explosiveness, pressure rate and finishing drives. They did, however, finish 73rd in scoring defense, 85th in rushing defense and 86th in Havoc rate. They have a few talented pieces with experience to build around and return 8 starters from last season. While they should see improvement, there are still glaring holes which are question marks waiting to be answered. Couple that with quality depth concerns and the Gators are more than a shoe’s throw from being a dominant defense. ; ) 

There’s no easy way to say it, FSU losing this game to an interim staff last year was a huge letdown to finish the season. FSU had started to build momentum and had bowl aspirations on the line. This time around, FSU gets them in Doak on a rare Friday night game that should be an electric atmosphere. In my opinion, Florida will probably be pretty good under Napier in the future if his success translates to this level but it’s still a few years away. In year 3 under Norvell, the Seminoles could end the season with a nice win over a rival who is searching for answers themselves but still a couple years behind FSU in establishing itself under a new staff. Another coin flip close game for FSU, but I’ll take the home crowd for the win. Give me FSU 31-28.

why I'm still bullish on Norvell's offense

Mike Norvell's career average stats vs 2021 prior to FSU infographic
Mike Norvell's career average stats vs 2021 prior to FSU infographic

Wrapping up

If you’re keeping score that puts the Noles finishing 10-2 to 9-3 if they face Sam Hartman. As crazy as that sounds it not out of the realm of possibility in my opinion. For the first time in a while FSU gets the edge of continuity and cohesiveness with multiple years in the same system vs UM, UF and LSU. I believe they have a talent edge over Cuse, GT, Louisiana, BC and of course Duquesne. Possibly even Wake Forest if Hartman is out.

I also like the way parts of the schedule set up for FSU getting LSU in their first game and a bye week before Louisville. If neither of those were the case, I probably pick FSU to lose both. That is why this season with so many close games I just decided it was better to provide what I think is the record ceiling, floor and what I feel is the most likely outcome. If the injury bug bites this team, and it already has to a degree, or they have an off week or two which is almost guaranteed to happen they could certainly drop a few coin flip games.

After watching this team the past two years it’s pretty hard to let my excitement run wild and start dreaming of a 10-win season. However, I feel it is not totally out of reach if they have a perfect season in multiple aspects. After all, we see teams have breakout season every single year. I’m still cautiously optimistic and hope FSU finally turns the corner and is ready to win on the big stage again. If so, it could be a surprisingly good season and anything less than about 7-5 in a disappointment in my eyes. I’m still going to go a little conservative and say they finish 8-4 which honestly is great season at this point in the rebuild.

Norvell is a good coach and didn’t forget how to do that just because he moved to Florida. His career averages on offense prior to FSU would have finished top 25 in both yards and touchdown for passing, rushing and total offense in 2021. Something FSU wasn’t even close to last year. I think Jordan is a better passer than he gets credit for and is dynamic as a runner. This is what leads me to believe there is still a lot of potential left in the tank for this offense. If the defense is what we think they can be and the offense can get to their potential with the new additions, I like FSU to have a rebound season this year.

We will learn a lot about this team in the first two games. Of course, it could all come crashing down for one reason or another and that is why I predicted the floor to be 6-6. Only time will tell but for the first time in a while I’m excited about what FSU brings to the table. Thanks for reading and Go Noles!

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